AUG 12, 2017 10:30 AM PDT

Rotavirus Vaccine Significantly Reduces Diarrhea Hospitalizations

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The importance and value of vaccinations can't really be overstated these days, as people are questioning their safety. But they are safe indeed, and many major health problems have been overcome with vaccines. Scientists continuously take steps to assess what effect vaccines have on the population. New research has shown, for example, that the rotavirus vaccine has had a very positive impact on hospitalizations of children for acute gastroenteritis. Between 2008 and 2013, hospital visits for such cases were reduced by an estimated 380,000.

Transmission electron micrograph of multiple rotavirus particles. Each one is about 70 nanometers in meter / Credit: Wikipedia/Dr Graham Beards

Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea in infants and small children, and it frequently requires a stay in the hospital. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this contagious virus is spread by the fecal-oral route, meaning it is present in the poop of a sick person; it can spread from there to surfaces and hands, eventually entering another body through the mouth. A vaccine for this virus was introduced in 2006. Looking at data that was obtained between 2008 and 2013, over 380,000 fewer children were hospitalized for diarrhea compared to 2000 - 2006 before the vaccine was given to kids. This also saved an estimated $1.2 billion in medical costs and immeasurable worry.

This study has been published in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and is outlined in the video. The researchers looked at data describing hospitalizations of children under the age of five for acute gastroenteritis at hospitals in 26 states to evaluate the effect of the rotavirus vaccine.

"Our findings confirm the sustained impact and effectiveness of the rotavirus vaccine program," commented Dr. Eyal Leshem, a researcher at the CDC during the study who is currently affiliated with the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel-Aviv University in Israel. "Increasing vaccine coverage likely resulted in the larger declines of rotavirus hospitalizations observed in the later years studied."

The rotavirus vaccine was given to roughly 73 percent of children age 19 to 35 months in 2015. The rotavirus vaccine is not given to children as frequently as some other more common vaccines, such as those for tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis, or DTaP.

While these results don't draw a straight line from the vaccine to fewer hospitalizations with hard evidence, it is an obvious and logical conclusion since the vaccine is known to prevent the illness.

"Efforts to further increase rotavirus vaccine coverage rates to better protect all children in the U.S. against rotavirus disease should continue," Leshem concluded.

As the use of the vaccine expands, hopefully, additional reductions in hospital stays will be made.

 

Sources: UPI, CDC, Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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